WHY I CAN’T WAIT FOR MY TRIATHLON TO BE OVER

This triathlon has been a long time coming, in fact it’s been in the works since I completed my very first sprint triathlon 3 years ago. I decided to sign up for it as my big challenge for 2015 because I like to have a new challenge every year. I mean, why not? Challenging yourself to the point of near exhaustion is fun right? Right…

Actually, it IS fun and actually, I’m really looking forward to the event in 10 days so that I can see how far I’ve come. I like to challenge myself because I like the feeling of achievement and triumph when I’ve silenced my own doubts.

At the same time I’m coming to realise that actually I don’t love doing triathlons. No, that’s not right. I love doing triathlons, I’m just not so keen on endurance training. There, I said it. I find it difficult to push myself, I find it boring and I miss doing cardio for fun.

Continue Reading…

Race Report: Eton Dorney Sprint Triathlon

So yesterday I conquered my 2nd sprint triathlon and it couldn’t have been more different to the first one that I did back in 2012. I’d signed up for that one to lose some weight and get moving again, which I did until I went into denial 6 weeks before the event and stopped training. Needless to say that I struggled through the race and genuinely thought that I was going to die in the middle of the swim.

This time I raced around with a massive grin on my face because I loved it. I loved everything about it. But more on that at the end. 

Let’s start with a tutorial on how (not) to put on a wetsuit:

Step 1 – after you’ve lubed up with Bodyglide, start with the feet

Step 2 – once the crotch of the wetsuit is vaguely near your own crotch start shimmying the top of it upwards and over your lubed up wrists

Step 3 – Don’t use your nails to pull the wetsuit up because you’ll make holes in it. And those holes will leak water during the swim and it will be cold. Anyway, get it over your shoulders by wriggling like hell

Step 4 – well done, you’ve got it on. Now stop sweating from all of the effort and go and do a triathlon

Onto the race report. 

After racking my bike and laying out my bike and run kit I waddled down to the lake with a couple of other nervous triathletes and I promptly slipped straight onto my arse on the ramp and had to choke back a tear from the pain. Great start. 

The swim was slow and cold but delightful! I tried out a bit of front crawl before I realised that it was not going to work and I settled into a comfortable breaststroke while I watched the rest of my wave stretch out in front of me. 

Accompanied by the amazing kayak marshals I plodded my way round the swim course enjoying the beautifully clear and fresh waters. 

When I eventually made it out of the water everything was shaking from the adrenaline. I fumbled out of my wetsuit and shoved my socks and trainers onto wet feet. At this stage I was struggling to keep my legs going in a straight line but I knew that once I was on my bike I could settle down.

The course at Eton Dorney is very flat so I put my head down for 4 laps of the 5km course. There was a headwind cycling up the right-hand side which I really felt in my legs but then as soon as I came round the top of the lake the wind dropped off and I flew down the other side. 

3 laps in and I chewed on half a coconut and macadamia Bounce energy ball washed down with water to keep me going. At this point there were lots of people flying past me and with every one I smiled a little bit more because this was my race and no one else’s. 

I turned off into transition knowing that the worst was over and I just had a little run to do and then I could sit down. My legs felt tired as I ran out of transition so I took the opportunity to walk through the water station before setting off up the side of the lake for 2 laps of a very straight, very boring run route. 

At this point I was really feeling the tiredness and my legs had switched to autopilot, which was especially tough because there was no support (apart from my superstar number 1 cheerleader amazing Mum). Everyone was cheering for their own runners and no one else which was so at odds with my experience of Run Dem Crew. Having cheered at a few races now and run one race being cheered by the crew I fully appreciate the power of Cheer Dem and it was sorely missed here. 

I slogged through the run and tried to gear up for my customary sprint finish. Unfortunately my legs only responded for a split second before I had to resort to my arms to carry me over the line. 

As I crossed the line I stopped instantly and tried to catch my breath. I simply didn’t have anything left which made me very proud. I’d left everything on the course and couldn’t have given it anything else. In fact, Mum you nearly got me by telling me how proud you were of me. Remember when I had my head down on the barrier? Yep, choking back a triumphant tear. 

As I said in my last post my main aim of the race was to enjoy it and I did. I loved it. I loved feeling strong and fit, I loved being part of something amazing and I loved seeing how far I’d come since the last one. 

I also managed to come in comfortably under 2 hours for a massive 21 minute personal best. I knocked 1 minute off my swim (yes, this needs some serious work), 6 minutes off my bike and a massive 10 minutes off my run as well as a huge 4 minutes off my transition times. 

With 9 weeks to go before I take on the Olympic distance triathlon at the London Triathlon I can now see my weaknesses and I’ll be signing up for some swimming lessons next week. Can’t wait to ramp up the training! 

How To Exercise When You Don’t Want To

Let’s face it, if we all just exercised when we wanted to then we’d sweat maybe once or twice each week, which is fine if you’re not working towards anything but if you have goals (whether physical, mental, challenge-based etc.) then chances are you’re going to need to be training more than this.

It’s not just the volume of training that’s important (or not, depending on what you’re working towards) but it’s the quality and diversity. Some of it is going to hurt, some of it is going to be within your comfort zones and other bits are going to be plain boring.

Continue Reading…

Triathlon Training Update

You know that feeling when you book in a dentist appointment a couple of months in advance and then put it to the back of your mind because you’re actually really dreading it….? Yeah, that. But with a triathlon…

With just over a week to go before this year’s first triathlon I thought I should give you an update into my very disorganised preparation.

1) Swimming

This is still the part of the triathlon that’s scaring me, not because I’m a bad swimmer but because swimming in a wetsuit in open water is a whole new ball game. It’s the bit that screwed me last time, taking twice as long as I’d hoped.

I’m also still swimming breaststroke 90% of the time which is fine in a lovely pool like the Olympic Aquatics Centre but it’s pretty heavy on the legs which is not ideal when you have a bike and a run phase coming up next.

I’ve swum no more than 3 or 4 times in the run up to this triathlon between 1km – 1.7km but not in open water and not in a wetsuit. Whoops. Continue Reading…

HIIT vs LISS cardio

You might have seen a previous post that I did about the benefits of cardiovascular training which is a great place to start because anything that raises your heart rate is going to be beneficial to your cardiovascular system. 

There’s so much more to cardiovascular training however and I’m going to discuss the biggest 2 right here for you, you lucky people. 

You might have heard people talking about HIIT (high intensity interval training) but have you heard about LISS (low intensity steady state)? 

Chances are you might not have heard about it but you’ve more than likely done it before. When you’ve decided that the 3 doughnuts you’ve eaten today were a bit much and you’re going to go to the gym and jog on a treadmill? LISS. When you dare to bare your pale skin for a gentle session at the pool for the first time this year? LISS. When you decide that you’re going to be healthy and go for a long walk ending up in a not-so-healthy pub lunch? LISS. Basically, if you can hold a conversation whilst training, you’re doing LISS.

The benefits of this kind of training is that because you’re normally working at 60-80% of your maximum heart rate, you’re comfortably within the ‘fat-burning zone’ which means that you’re burning a higher percentage of fat within the energy that you’re using. 

Think of it like a cake. At this stage, the energy that you’re burning is the size of a cupcake (stick with me, don’t get distracted by the thought of cupcakes) and a majority of that is fat. 

LISS is therefore good for:

– Unfit or elderly people who want to lose weight but need a low-impact form of exercise to protect their bodies

– People who have the time to go out walking for a couple of hours or jog for an hour, it’s pretty time-consuming!

– Endurance athletes (marathon runners, triathletes etc.) who need to get their bodies used to working at low-intesity for long periods of time

– Anyone who wants to unplug for a while, force themselves to not look at a screen and enjoy the great outdoors

There’s one big flaw with LISS though. Whatever your goals are your body will need to keep adapting otherwise your progress will plateau. If you just do LISS you will reach that plateau quite quickly as the body finds it easy to adapt to and then gets very comfortable. 

Have you heard that story about the person who went to the gym 3 times a week, did the same workout each time including a 20 minute run on the treadmill and 15 minutes on the stationary bike? Do you remember when they stopped going after a few months because they stopped losing weight? They should have done some HIIT. 

Which bring us to HIIT (funnily enough). HIIT covers any kind of cardio exercise that combines periods of near-maximum work with periods of recovery. It can be applied to most forms of cardio including running, cycling, swimming, skipping, boxing etc. and includes things like tabata and circuit training. For example, you could warm up, then sprint for 30 seconds followed by a recovery period at a jog for 1 minute and then you could repeat that as many times as you like before you cool down/pass out.

HIIT will bring your heart rate up into the moderate/intense training zone meaning that you’ll be improving your aerobic fitness and overall performance. In these zones you’ll be burning a higher proportion of carbohydrates than fat but don’t be fooled, you’re still burning plenty of fat. 

Let’s go back to the cake idea (focus now…). With HIIT the cake is now Bruce Bogtrotter-sized (if you don’t get this reference then shame on you, go and read Matilda right now).

The amount of calories from burning carbohydrates and fat is much higher than what you’ll burn through LISS meaning that you’ll probably burn more fat overall. It’s a smaller percentage of the cake but the cake is so much bigger with HIIT. Makes sense? 

Here are some of the benefits of HIIT:

– Great for time-poor people, you can squeeze a brilliant workout into whatever time you have available, even as little as 7 minutes if necessary, and keep your heart rate up

– It keeps the body adapting because your heart rate is going up and down with periods of work and recovery and your body doesn’t know what’s coming next

– The ‘after burn’ effect or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) from HIIT keeps your metabolism high after exercise meaning that you continue to burn calories when you’re lying in your post-gym bubble bath. Result

– HIIT allows you to keep any muscle mass (within reason) as it uses muscles to their maximum capacity, keeping them working. Think about a sprinter’s physique vs a marathon runner

– The explosive nature of HIIT will help you to increase the strength in your muscles which in turn could improve your endurance performance – a good point to remind endurance athletes of the importance of cross-training

It might seem like I’m leaning towards HIIT as the preferable form of cardio but actually, I believe that both LISS and HIIT have their roles in fitness depending on the individual and their goal. Ideally, a combination of both would help to improve overall cardiovascular fitness and health and to reach personal goals. 

Try including a few sprints next time you go running and reap the benefits! 

Race Report: Winter Run 10k

‘Guys, we need to sign up to this race! It’s through central London and there’s fake snow and polar bears and everything!’

Skip forward a few months and our team had dwindled right down for plenty of very valid reasons. However, despite an awful race prep and freezing cold weather, this race was momentous for me and here’s why….

The Training

There was no cardio training to be seen in the month leading up to the race. In fact, my last run had been a slow 4k on New Year’s Eve in Nice that felt really rather tough. 

I’ve been doing lots of strength training and because I’m bulking I’ve not been using calories up on cardio. So while I’m definitely stronger I had serious doubts as to my cardio fitness which has never been a strong point of mine. 

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The Race

I’d spent all day before the race in bed with a migraine so the immediate prep was going really well. Not. 

I managed to get some sleep the night before, after cramming in some rice and woke up feeling quite fresh which was a nice surprise. The morning was grey and cold, just right for running… We got down to the welcome area nice and early and I warmed up outside Downing Street before I felt remotely comfortable taking off my coat to leave with Simon. 

The start line was a little bit chaotic as although we’d all been given wave times there didn’t seem to be any checking or order to how people were starting. Everyone was crammed into the start area and they were just letting 2,500 people go in each wave. It meant that I ended up doing the warm-up 3 times before I even got to the start line!

Anyway, off I went feeling pretty sceptical about how it was going to go. However, I surprised myself by feeling really quite comfortable all the way up until 5k. 

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At that point though the problems hit. My hip flexors tightened up first, followed by my back and finally my left ankle. By the time i hit 8km it had become a mental battle. 

I didn’t even notice the fake snow zones or cow bells along the route although I do remember being a little underwhelmed by the novelty of the race. Just being able to run on closed roads along the Thames was enough of a novelty for me.

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I could hear my normal pace running away from me through my headphones so I just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other and ticking off the ½ km markers. This was one race that I was going to finish running, whether my muscles wanted to or not. 

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With 200m to go, I normally step up a gear and go for a big finish but this has to be the slowest sprint finish I’ve ever done. But I did it. I proved to myself that not only can my base fitness carry me through a 10k without walking but I can also run by myself and self-motivate. It was a good feeling to cross that finish line and hold my head high. 

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The Results

1st km: 07:10

2nd km: 06:50

3rd km: 06:54

4th km: 06:47

5th km: 07:16

6th km: 06:21

7th km: 07:19

8th km: 07:21

9th km: 07:04

10th km: 07:30

TOTAL TIME: 01:13:12

Now that I’ve got the bug back, I’m itching to sign up to EVERYTHING. But while I fight the urge, I’ve got a sprint triathlon in May to get training for so watch this space for training updates.

Je Vais Faire Un Jogging

Having signed up for my second ever 10k race only 2 weeks after my first ever 10k race, I should have spent the weekend in between relaxing, doing some light exercise and chilling out.

Instead, I went to France and ate my bodyweight in roquefort, camembert, baguette, soup de poisson and coffee eclairs. Because that’s what going on holiday is all about. 

However, I did head out on the Sunday morning for a run (fuelled by camembert) and managed a delightfully pleasant and hilly 8.5kms in the glorious sunshine. 

I had to run on the roads for most of the run (don’t worry mum, I ran into the traffic) but the French drivers were very courteous and gave me lots of space in my luminous yellow leggings. 

The blue skies were endless and I felt on top of the world as I powered up and down the hills. The only downside is that it was so hot in the sun I was sweating a bucketload (*sweaty selfie alert*)…. 

Once I made it into the town there were a few more people around and it felt much more like running in London so I stopped shortly after the bridge below. 

It was one of the best runs I’ve had so far, I felt strong and steady in my rhythm and didn’t struggle too much with the hills. I feel in the perfect position to take on the Women’s 10k in Finsbury Park on Saturday, bring it on! 

Run To The Beat 10km Training – Part 2

Weeks 3 and 4 of the 6 week training programme are done. And they’ve largely been a bit of a disaster (with a few moments of glory). We’ve been having our bathroom redone so I’ve spent the last couple of weeks moving round between my brother’s flat (thanks Jonny and Sam!), my parents (thanks Mum and Dad!) and my boyfriend’s parents (thanks Sylvia and Tony!). I’ve also had a cold so running has completely taken a back seat… 

Week 3:

Monday – Rest day – Yep, rested so hard

Tuesday – 25 minutes (hard) – Managed 22 minutes up and down the hills of Hendon. It reminded me how flat Hackney is and how I’m not used to hills! 

Wednesday – Rest day – Rested the hell out of Wednesday

Thursday – 35 minutes (moderate) – Nope

Friday – 25 minutes (easy) – Again, nope

Saturday – Rest day – Aced this one

Sunday – 45 minutes – Ummmmmmm nope

Week 4:

Monday – Rest or cross-train – Switched this with tomorrow’s run and did 4km in 29 minutes up and down the hills in Radlett. It was pouring with rain (which I normally love) and I had a stabbing stitch but it felt good to be back out and over my cold

Tuesday – 25 minutes fartleks/hills – Rested hard

Wednesday – Rest day – 4.5km in 32.50 minutes up and down the hills in Hendon with Amy (massive props to Amy who hadn’t run in a year but kept up!)

Thursday – 40 minutes (moderate) – This just didn’t happen but I did stay up until midnight painting my new bathroom if that counts?

Friday – 25 minutes (easy) – Ran on the treadmill at the gym as it was the only way I could fit it in. I HATE treadmill running, it’s so boring and monotonous. But needs must I guess

Saturday – Rest day – Switched around my weekend runs as I went out on Saturday night and didn’t fancy a long run on a hangover… Heron and I nailed out 7.3km in 52 minutes which is the longest that I’ve ever run. Well proud of myself… 

Sunday – 50-55 minutes – Well deserved rest day!

2 weeks to go until the race and I’m going to draw my (time)line in the sand. I’m going to be aiming for under 70 minutes which is about the pace that I’m currently running at. Seeing as I’ve never run 10k before, whatever I manage will be a PB! 

Run To The Beat 10km Training – Part 1

If you’ve been following this blog since the beginning, you’ll know that I started it with a post about how I was getting back into fitness through running. You might also have noticed that I have a love/hate relationship with running. Which is why I decided to sign up to Run To The Beat 10k to prove to myself that I can run and I can also ‘be a runner’. 

So this is part 1 of my training route to the 10k on September 14th. 

I’m following a 5k to 10k training programme to help me judge my training and pace and it’s working really well! 

Week 1:

Monday – Rest day – totally nailed this one

Tuesday – 20 minute run (moderate) – skipped this and went to a 60 minute Warriors (boxing fitness class)

Wednesday – Rest day – I felt like a run so I did! 2.45km at 06:27 average pace followed by 60 minute boxing class

Thursday – 20 minute run (moderate) – skipped this for a 30 minute cycle and 30 minute PT session

Friday – 20 minute run (easy) – did this on the treadmill at the gym followed by 35 minutes of making up my own circuits

Saturday – Rest day – easy peasy

Sunday – 35 minutes long run – I did 30 minutes at 06:43 pace and then a 30 minute PT session (in the pissing rain…)

Week 2:

Monday – Rest day – which was lucky as I had a tummy bug

Tuesday – 25 minute run moderate – Skipped this to go to 60 minute yoga class which was much kinder on my tummy than a run

Wednesday – Rest day – I did a 21 minute run at a pace of 06:21 and then a 30 minute PT session

Thursday – 30 minute run moderate – life got in the way of this one but I did a 40 minute cycle instead

Friday – 25 minute run easy – did this one on the treadmill in the gym followed by a 30 minute circuit session including TRX, battle ropes and trying not to laugh at the gym posers

Saturday – Rest day – Squeezed in a 30 minute PT session 

Sunday – 40 minute long run – This is tomorrow’s challenge and I’m a little nervous as it’s going to be the longest that I’ll have ever run. Watch this space! 

I’ve also been making sure that I’m eating plenty of food as running on a calorie deficit is just plain miserable. I’ve reintroduced protein shakes in the mornings with salads for lunch and a good sized snack in the afternoons even if I’m not hungry followed by a dinner that includes protein, carbs and good fats.

Even though I might not be sticking to the plan exactly, my running is feeling stronger, my little legs are moving faster than they ever have before and I’m starting to believe that a 10k might actually be in my reach!